Hugo Wilson


The technical and motivic repertoire of British artist Hugo Wilson, born in London in 1982, seems almost anachronistic. Working in the tradition of the all-round artists as they emerged in the Italian Renaissance, Wilson moves nimbly between diverse artistic means of expression, creating paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures playfully, yet with absolute precision and stupendous craftsmanship. Wilson has recently added another facet to his spectrum of media in turning to the outdoor sculpture.

His masterly execution of various techniques reflects Wilson’s classical training for several years at the traditional Florence studio of Charles H. Cecil and the artist’s intense engagement with the Old Masters. The choice of numerous materials used in his work can also be attributed to this background. Wilson often paints appropriately prepared wooden panels. Numerous layers of paint that differ in their chemical make up and radiance ensure a vivid expression of color. These paintings not only reference the Old Masters in the technique used, but also in their motivic elements, such as hunting scenes, still-lifes and baroque draperies as traditional visual formulas of dignity. Wilson combines these artistic elements with the visual events of our age, from viral YouTube clips to computer-animated films with talking animals. The result is a fascinating updating of the European painting tradition manifested in dramatic and dynamic compositions.

Wilson has not only breathed new life into painting as a medium. In his paintings of recent years, the artist has also reanimated a genre of painting that had almost been forgotten: the game scene, which stages animals as an expression of trust and affection, as an emblem of Christ’s passion or (to teach) as a carrier of a moral lesson. After creating animal portraits full of character, Wilson has recently been developing complex group paintings that only rarely show a peaceful coexistence, instead depicting the pecking order or food chain, power relationships that the artist understands as a mirror of human society.

The varied oeuvre of this young artist has already resonated strongly with an international audience. Wilson’s works have been shown in group shows at the MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts in Debrecen, Busan Metropolitan Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and are also included in key international collections, such as that of the New York Public Library, the Deutsche Bank Collection, and the Janet de Botton Collection in London.